Looking Back At The Best Offerings At The 2012 Dallas International Film Festival.

An international film festival is a big deal in the arts world. Not every city has one. And that's what makes the Dallas International Film Festival a special event for our city.

This year, some 180 films from all over the world were screened at multiple theaters in Dallas. Actors, directors and writers walked the red carpet, posed for photos and stood for interviews. It was a big to-do.

Thing is, you've likely only heard of a handful of these people and their films. Which is kind of the whole point. Festivals are where great new film talent is put on display and discovered. But you can never be sure what you're going to get. That's what makes going to a film festival such a risk. It's also what makes it so fun.

Now, a week removed from the festival's end, let's look back at some of this year's highlights.

My favorite film of the festival.
Faith, Love and Whiskey.
This Bulgarian film tells the tale of an engaged twentysomething girl in America who travels back to her home in Bulgaria where she reunites with an old lover. Artistic and nostalgic, and with a unique sense of humor, this movie captured my imagination and made me want to go to Europe, fall in love and drink whiskey. After telling everyone all week that this was my favorite film of the festival, it wound up winning the best narrative feature prize, which is arguably the most important award of the fest. Yeah, that's right, I called that one, you guys.

The best movie with a cast you might recognize.
Liberal Arts.
The second directorial effort from Josh Radnor (who you may recognize as Ted in How I Met Your Mother) premiered during the first weekend of DIFF. Unlike so many of the films on display at this year's affair, you've probably actually heard of most of the people in this one: Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins and, yes, even Zac Efron, who, for the record, I think is pretty awesome. Liberal Arts explores that time period after college when those of us who opted for an enlightening, but less practical, degree in the liberal arts try to figure out what the hell we're supposed to do with our lives. As an English major from a small private college, this was kind of a perfect representation of my life.

The best movie you will never see again.
Andrew Bird: Fever Year.
As the title suggests, this documentary provides a yearlong look into the life of the lyrically verbose, intellectually stimulating indie rocker and violin virtuoso Andrew Bird. Between footage filmed at a live concert, this film shows Bird as he explores the pains and joys of being a touring musician. Given that he's on the road more often than not, Bird explains that he believes he's evolved into some kind of touring-musician-animal. And, to this film's credit, it certainly gives audiences an better look at an inspired artist and a fascinating person. Director Xan Aranda was in town for this film's initial DIFF screening and held court for a brief Q&A session afterward, where she told us that Bird is an extremely private person — so much so that he bought the rights to this movie and refuses to release it. Meaning? Unless you're planning on going to the film festivals in Boston or Minnesota this week, you wont get to see this one in the future, unfortunately.

Best homegrown film.
Wolf.
Another award winner, Wolf caught my attention because it boasted a Texas-based cast and crew. Ya'ke Smith, a film professor at The University of Texas at Arlington, directed this one about a teenage boy who is sexually molested by his church pastor. No, it's not about Catholics; it's actually a film that focuses on the evangelical African-American community. It wasn't my favorite film in the fest, but it was impressive in terms of storytelling and acting, and, yes, I was proud that it was a bunch of Texans that made it.

All in all, I've got to say that I'm pretty proud of Dallas for bringing in such a culturally diverse and artistically rich event.

The fact is, you don't have to be a film buff to go and enjoy this festival. I recommend that, next year, you take a look at the list of films and pick a few that seem interesting.

At the very least, you can be almost certain that what the Dallas International Film Festival puts on display will be more creative and intellectually stimulating than most of the drivel that Hollywood keeps throwing at us.

Find more of Richard's film coverage here.

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